14 Little Things That Look Like Love But Are Actually Manipulation

When your boyfriend does something thoughtful and sweet, you might think, “Aww, he really loves me so much.” But are you sure you’re not mistaking love for manipulation? Here are 14 subtle signs that reveal your awesome boyfriend is really a jerk in disguise:

  1. He likes to “check in” incessantly. He just missed you so much when you were out with your friends that he simply had to send you three texts in a row, each one more frantic/demanding than the last. Sweet, hey? Not really. It’s more likely that he’s really checking up on you, not checking in, if he does this all the time.
  2. He uses the, “… But I love you so much!” excuse often. Does it seem like every time your boyfriend does something that pisses you off, like showing extreme jealousy, he quickly tells you that his bad behavior is only because he loves you so much? It could be a way for him to distract you from his BS and get back into your good books. But don’t ignore the behavior — that’s a true reflection of what he thinks.
  3. He can’t live without you. He tells you that you mean so much to him, he would die without you. Um, this isn’t romantic, it’s creepy AF. For some emotional abusers, this could end up with them threatening suicide as a way to control you when you don’t do what they want you to do.
  4. He says you’re his whole world. Again, not really romantic. No one should have the pressure of being someone’s everything. If he’s saying this, he’s really hinting at how he wants to be isolated with you, instead of integrated in the world in a healthy way. Don’t be surprised if he starts pulling you away from your loved ones so he can have you all to himself — and control you.
  5. He spoils you with gifts you don’t need. It might be sweet, but not if he puts you down for the things you have. If he’s replacing your furniture, clothing or any other items with ones he prefers for you, he’s not giving you a surprise gift — he’s trying to turn you into something you’re not.
  6. He “worries” about you. That’s why he called and texted you 30 times when you were out. If you don’t reply to him right away, he gets mad, or “worried” as he calls it. See how it’s a way for him to seem loving and guilt you into being more attentive to his ridiculous whims and “needs” when he’s the furthest thing from a loving boyfriend?
  7. He wants to start a family. This is obviously a normal, lovely thing to want, but watch how it’s done. If his goal is to have a family so that you can quit working and stay at home with the baby, in a home far away from where your loved ones are, it could be part of his plan to isolate you and take control of your life: he’ll be controlling your whereabouts, your finances and everything else soon enough.
  8. He flatters you constantly. A bit of flattery is healthy and makes you feel good, but if your partner’s always charming you, it can be used as a disguise. He wants to throw you off guard and perhaps use the charm to manipulate you at a later stage.
  9. He tells you when you’ve had too much to drink. You were at a party together and he told you to stop drinking so much after he saw you having fun with your friends. The reason? He cares about you and doesn’t want you to be badly hungover tomorrow. Thanks, Dad. You know what? Maybe he was pissed off that you were having such a good time because he’s a jealous, insecure jerk.
  10. He tells you how much better you are than other women. You might see it as a compliment when he says all his exes were psychotic but you’re so much better than them. Hey, maybe you’re the best woman he’s ever met. These can be compliments, but not if he’s showing signs of being sexist and discriminatory. He might say, “Women are so [insert negative adjective here], but you’re not like them.” Um, hello? You’re a woman! It’s damn insulting.
  11. He loves to joke around. He’ll call you “nuts” or “silly,” but only in a joking way. He says it’s his way of showing love. Um, no. It’s not. It’s his way of pretending to be joking but hoping that the comments lodge themselves in your mind so that you start to believe them.
  12. He suggests things “for your own good.” He cares about you so much that he’ll show you a better way to do your job, speak to your best friend, make a cup of tea and even lose those extra pounds (that you didn’t even notice). It’s not for your own good at all — it’s his way of controlling you. But screw that, you’re a grown woman who can damn well decide what’s best for you.
  13. He needed to see you — that’s why he flipped. Aww, he just couldn’t wait to see you and when you told him that you had to cancel your date, he lost his temper. He quickly apologized, saying that he just missed you so much, and maybe you felt flattered. But warning bells should’ve sounded. Beware of a man who can’t handle being told “no.”
  14. He becomes super sweet after arguments. You had a big fight after which he became loving and sweet. It’s a way to guilt you for confronting him on something that caused the fight. He’s the guy who’ll say, “You misunderstood me,” “I don’t like drama,” or “Is that what you think of me, even though I show you I love you every day?” as a way to make him seem like the sweet, reasonable guy and you like the nuts girlfriend. It’s messed up and you need to get out ASAP.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.